Vertical eddy iron fluxes support primary production in the open Southern Ocean

Takaya Uchida, Dhruv Balwada, Ryan P. Abernathey, Galen A. McKinley, Shafer K. Smith, Marina Lévy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The primary productivity of the Southern Ocean ecosystem is limited by iron availability. Away from benthic and aeolian sources, iron reaches phytoplankton primarily when iron-rich subsurface waters enter the euphotic zone. Here, eddy-resolving physical/biogeochemical simulations of a seasonally-forced, open-Southern-Ocean ecosystem reveal that mesoscale and submesoscale isopycnal stirring effects a cross-mixed-layer-base transport of iron that sustains primary productivity. The eddy-driven iron supply and consequently productivity increase with model resolution. We show the eddy flux can be represented by specific well-tuned eddy parametrizations. Since eddy mixing rates are sensitive to wind forcing and large-scale hydrographic changes, these findings suggest a new mechanism for modulating the Southern Ocean biological pump on climate timescales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1125
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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